Denis Hamlett: “The way we play and our philosophy, requires us to have the right balance, to have younger guys.” (Andy Mead/YCJ Photo)
By Michael Lewis
Last season there was some concern that the Red Bulls were getting a bit long in the tooth in a few key positions.
On Wednesday, the team remedied that just a bit by trading 32-year-old midfielder Sacha Kljestan to Orlando City SC for 25-year-old forward Carlos Rivas and 20-year-old center back Tommy Redding.
That doesn’t necessarily mean the Red Bulls will jettison everyone on their roster who is over 30.
To sporting director Denis Hamlett, it’s a question of balance — of having young and experienced players on the squad.
“it is important to have a good blend, a good balance,” Hamlett said in a conference call with the media Thursday. “The way we play and our philosophy, requires us to have the right balance, to have younger guys. We felt especially last year with success of when we have guys like Tyler Adams and Aaron Long, a real opportunity to showcase themselves and [get] game experiences, from playing in big games such as the Open Cup and in the playoff series. You don’t want to be completely too young. You need experience.
“It’s tricky. It’s a process that gets discussed throughout the whole year with our staff and making sure what our vision and our plan is. Part of that is our belief in Red Bull II in terms of the development of our players. In this league, it’s about making the right decision in terms you feel you can gain the right advantage.”
Hamlett cited last year’s trade that sent captain Dax McCarty to the Chicago Fire. The technical staff felt it had players to take over McCarty’s role on the field.
“We felt very strongly in terms what we had on our roster with Tyler and these younger players just needed an opportunity,” he said. “So now it’s sort of fast forward … You think with the players we received from Orlando and the players that we signed and potentially signing in the future, we have to get balance in terms of moving this team forward.”
Speaking of players over 30, Hamlett doesn’t think striker Bradley Wright-Phillips is in any danger of losing his goal-scoring mojo. BWP turns 33 March 12 and forwards have a history of losing their scoring prowess when get a bit on in years. Wright-Phillips dropped from 24 goals in 2016 to 17 last year.
“People mentioned after [Thierry] Henry left that he wasn’t going to be able to score as many goals and I think he’s shown that [he can],” he said. “He’s an amazing person. He’s a guy that works hard and people don’t see day-in and day-out what he brings to our team and the willingness to work off the ball. We know around the goal he’s lethal. So now our goal is to make sure that we assure him with more pieces around him so that we can become a harder team to deal with and not be depend on him as much. And so, bringing a guy like Carlos Rivas and bringing in some younger players, we feel that’s going to take a little bit of the load. He continues to do what he does, which is to score goals. So, I don’t see him slowing down.”